GAVAN O'FARRELL AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 2700
Council Meeting: AUGUST 2018
Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed
Letters to the Editor, Closure, Non-Publication
Obligation to Publish
Right of Reply
CASE NO: 2700
RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF GAVAN O’FARRELL AGAINST STUFF
FINDING: NO GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: AUGUST 2018
Gavan O’Farrell lodged a lengthy complaint concerning publication of user generated comments that were “gratuitously abusive” and offensive to Christianity and Christians. He gave examples going back several months.Comments such as “myth” “superstition” “imaginary friend” and “tooth fairy” mock belief he said. “My beef is that so much manifestly uncivil criticism is routinely published about religious belief – and not about anything else.”
Mr O’Farrell also complained about the non-publication of an opinion piece he had submitted, which he saw as addressing the imbalance in the commentary. Other commenters spoke of the lack of evidence for religious belief and it was to address this point that his article on evidence should be published, in the interests of fairness and balance.
In responding to the complaint Keith Lynch on behalf of Stuff referred to the Media Council decisionRzesniowiecki against Stuff (Case 2574) in which the Council affirmed the editor’s prerogative to determine what is published
The Council is satisfied that online comments are analogous to letters to the editor, and their publication is at the prerogative of the editor, pursuant to Principle 5.
We reiterate that the Terms and Conditions for online comment are a matter between the online publisher and its readership. It is not a matter for the Council, nor do we have any jurisdiction to interfere in it.
Mr O’Farrell, while accepting that Case 2574 had bearing on the complaint about comments, said it did not address his issue that “fairness and balance” required the publication of his offered opinion piece.
The Council has read the long string of correspondence between Mr O’Farrell and Stuff and commends Mr Lynch for his engagement.
Stuff was under no obligation to publish the opinion piece. Editors will determine what to publish based on many factors including newsworthiness and what readers are likely to be interested in.
Mr O’Farrell has gone to some lengths to find the comments he finds offensive.The Council has said many times that no-one has the right not to be offended.The comments Mr O’Farrell complains about carry a low level of offensiveness, or indeed none to many people.
Finding: No Grounds to Proceed